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Can you take a dare? Ask Curtis Sittenfeld: “You Think It, I’ll Say It”

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Why I read You Think it, I’ll say it 

Sittenfeld has recently published a new novel, Rodham, a novelization of Hilary Rodham Clinton’s early life.  I probably wouldn’t be interested in reading Rodham at all, but the cool thing is that in the novelization, Ms. Rodham says, “No, thank you” to Mr. Clinton and goes on her merry way, alone.

It is interesting to wonder where her path would have led her without her husband.

Also, I’ve read Sittenfeld’s first novel, Prep, and her Pride and Prejudice retelling, Eligible, and I like her writing.

Sittenfeld addresses a lot of the same topics as your average Chick Lit writer (e.g. Jennifer Weiner), but she is more literate and more articulate…and more subtle and apparently, in a good way, snarkier (Word says “snarkier” is not a word, but I say it should be. So there.).

But Rodham is new, so it will be a while until we can all get our hands on it.

And anyway, if I have a criticism of Sittenfeld, is that she should do less derivative writing and more original work, which, yay, she has in her collection of short stories.

And yes, see, even Reese has given her a thumb’s up. Fair enough. Of the “Big Three” of book clubs (Oprah, Jenna, Reese), Reese is my favorite. She’s not as literary as she thinks she is, but she’s pretty good, lol.

Why you Should read “You Think It, I’ll Say It” 

The title tells you exactly why you should read this book.  Sittenfeld dares to say things that most of us are barely willing to think even though we know they are true.  But somehow, I don’t feel skeevy about reading what she has to say, and so she is able to walk a fine balance really well.

The stories are about women at different stages of their lives, but most of them seem to be in their 30’s or younger. Also, they are White. Very white. Fine, this is Sittenfeld’s thing. Just letting you know.

She does like to draw on media and celebrity, which I don’t mind because her work is well written.

Sittenfeld’s stories remind me quite a bit of another short story collection I read recently, The Training School for Negro Girls, except of course, they are Black, very Black. The style is similar and the topics are similar, with the difference being that the two groups of stories represent two different American, mostly female, experiences.

Like the rest of this nation, some things are the same, and some things are not.

Both are good.

The Lois Level on The Training School for Negro Girls.

Who is Curtis Sittenfeld?


During the Covid 19 shutdown, Sittenfeld ran a photo of herself on Twitter wearing her wedding dress around the house. She posted this photo in 2017.

Quick Read

Find out more about Curtis Sittenfeld, in her own words, by checking out this interview in The New Yorker: Curtis Sittenfeld on Writing Her New Short-Story Collection and Adapting It Into a Kristen Wiig TV Series

 

 

Stories Not To Miss

 

“A Regular Couple”

 If you are a woman, and you make A LOT of money, and your husband makes a normal amount but is also better looking than you are, is that the same thing as when  man of average looks but with A LOT of money marries a really hot woman? 

That one’s easy, right? 

Do you ask him to sign a prenup?  Do you back off when he makes you feel guilty about it?  How often do you think men feel guilty about it or back off of a prenup when marrying a really hot woman with no money of her own? 

New subject. 

Who is the person from your adolescent years that you hated the most?  How long did it take you to remember, if at all?  What would you do if you met that person today, especially if you would be seen as someone “has it all” and that person is sort of average? 

Ok, no more questions.  Go read the story now. 


You never know who is watching and what they are saying.

This is a picture of some girls watching birds.

Credit: Beverly Skinner / USFWS 23 May 2013/flickr

“Prairie Wife”

 

Ironically, since I’m doing a blog, I don’t really follow a lot of social media personalities.  I just about gag everytime I see the real “Prairie Wife” display in Wal Mart. 

 

I think I kind of got interested in this story because it’s about an Internet personality, but this story is not really about the prairie wife as much as it is about one of the thousands of people out there who know each famous person.  I guess the thing to remember is that famous people aren’t real.  I mean, they are real people, but the person you see projected through the media isn’t real…especially the bigger a star that person gets to be.  But, on the other hand, there is a real person out there, and the while the person who is in the media isn’t real, it doesn’t mean they are fake either.

Does that make sense? 

I guess we are all the Wizard of Oz, controlling our personalities with sets of levers.

Free Read

Free Listen

Read and/or Listen to the author read “The Prairie Wife” at The New Yorker (limited number of free articles per month…make it count).

“Off the Record”

If you get depressed because there are too many characters in Sittenfeld’s other stories that you don’t like too much, Off the Record is a good one to read.  

Again, when it comes to personalities, what is constructed and what it real?  Does it matter? 

The thing that made me think in this story is about to what degree do we make our choices (as in intentionally or subliminally) and to what degree is our life path decided for us? 

This is an issue I have been struggling with a lot over the last year.  I still often wonder whether it is God, or just “life” or the “universe”, or whether everything that happens to me (and to everyone) comes from all the choices that we subliminally make without realizing it.  

For myself, and I think a lot of us, we go through long periods of our lives where everything seems the same and not much happens, and then we might go through sudden changes that have happened almost before we realize it.  For me, over the last 18 months to 2 years, while there are some things I have said a definitive “no” to, I have opened myself up to more possibilities that I have at any other time in my life, I think, and even to start down paths, only to have the door slammed in my face. 

So ok, “Off The Record” is about mothers and babies…not usually my thing…but see how much it got me thinking?

That means it’s good.

More by Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep

I read Prep when it first came out…I don’t remember much about it, but I enjoyed it enough to make me interested in reading more from Sittenfeld.

I have always enjoyed books about communal living: boarding schools, convents, and even college life.

Aside from two years in a college dorm (I moved into an apartment after that), I have never lived communally, and despite having worked almost exclusively in schools during my career, I have never worked in a school with even a small boarding program!

I don’t know what any of this means to me, but to you it means that I probably have enough experience to know a boarding school story.

Eligible

Usually, I can’t be bothered to read a retelling of a novel. Seriously? As if there weren’t more novels in the world already that I want to read but probably won’t get to in this life.

I think I was in the mood for something light, and also because I know I’m ok with Sittenfeld’s style, I gave Eligible a go.

Sittenfeld’s version was definitely not the best book I’ve ever read, but I didn’t mind it.  I enjoyed seeing how she reinterpreted Austen’s characters, and I mentioned this book (which involved my looking it up) when I was writing a recent article on Longbourne, which is meant to be the sort of “below stairs” version of Pride and Prejudice, for the record, I very much enjoyed. 

The Lois Level on Longbourne: “Pride and Prejudice”: What was really going on in Elizabeth Bennett’s home?

Free Read

Free Listen

One more for the road.

Read and/or listen to Curtis Sittenfeld read “Gender Studies”, also in this collection, at The New Yorker (limited number of free reads per month…make it count). She really hits the nail on the head when she writes about a certain type of relationship: “Their deliberately childless life, their cat, Converse (named not for the shoe but for the political scientist), their free-range beef and nights and weekends of reading and grading and high-quality television series—if was fine and a little horrible. She gets it” (6).

Yup, anyone who has been to graduate school does.

If you’re a Trump supporter, skip this story.

Share your thoughts! We want to hear your perspective and most definitely your reading recommendations!

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